Stock Markets are the means through which securities are bought and sold. The origin of stock markets goes back to medieval Italy.1 During the 17th and 18th centuries Amsterdam was the principal centre for securities trading hi the world. The appearance of formal stock markets and professional intermediation resulted from the supply of, demand for and turnover in transferable securities. The 19th century saw2 a great expansion in issues of transferable securities.
The popularity of transferable instruments as a means of finance continued to grow and at the beginning of the 20th century there was an increasing demand for the facilities provided by stock exchanges, with both new ones appearing around the world and old ones becoming larger, more organized and increasingly sophisticated.
The largest, most active and best organized markets were established in Western Europe and the United States. Despite their common European origins there was no single model which every country copied.
Members of stock exchanges drew up rules to protect their own interests and to facilitate the business to be done by creating an orderly and regulated marketplace.
Investors were interested in a far wider range of securities3 than those issued by local enterprises. Increasingly, these local exchanges were integrated into national markets.
The rapid development of communications allowed stock exchanges to attract orders more easily from all over the country and later the barriers that had preserved the independence and isolation of national exchanges were progressively removed, leading to the creation of a world market for securities. The 1980s saw the growing internationalization of the world securities markets, forcing stock exchanges to compete with each other. Cross-border trading of international equities expanded.
Although many securities were of interest to only a small and localized group, others came to attract investors throughout the world. Increasingly, arbitrage between different stock exchanges ensured that the same security commanded the same price4 on whatever market it was traded. London, Paris, New York became dominant stock exchanges.
Stock exchanges emerged as central elements in the financial systems of all advanced countries.
Potential investors, insurance companies, pension funds, governments and corporate enterprises see securities as a cheap and convenient means of finance.
An investor who purchases new securities is participating in a primary financial market. An investor who resells existing securities is participating in a secondary financial market.
There are two basic types of stock markets – (1) organized exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and (2) the less formal over-the-counter markets.
The organized security exchanges are tangible physical entities, which have specifically designated members5 and elected governing bodies – boards of governors.
In contrast to the organized security exchanges, the over-the-counter market is an intangible organization. It is a network of security dealers who buy and sell securities from each other, either for their own account or for their retail clients. The over-the-counter market is normally conducted by telephone and computer reporting of price quotations between brokerage firms that "make a market": that is, agree to buy and sell a particular security. Securities that are not listed on exchanges are traded "over-the-counter". In general these include stocks, preferred stocks, corporate bonds, and other securities.
Investors need complete and reliable information about stocks and markets. In addition to the listings, the financial pages of newspapers in all countries contain price quotations and share indexes which give a broad indication of how the stock market, or a segment of the stock market, performed during a particular day.